This study investigates the associations between lifecourse adversity and physical performance in old age in different societies of North and South America and Europe. The study population was composed of community dwelling people between 65 and 74 years of age, recruiting 200 men and 200 women at each site. Physical Performance was assessed with the Short Physical Performance Battery (SPPB). Economic and social adversity was estimated from childhood adverse events, low education, semi-skilled occupations during adulthood and living alone and insufficient income in old age. A total of 1995 people were assessed. Low physical performance was associated with childhood social and economic adversity, semi-skilled occupations, living alone and insufficient income. Physical performance was lower in participants living in Colombia, Brazil and Albania than in Canada counterparts, despite adjustment for lifecourse adversity, age and sex.
This study shows evidence of the early beginnings of social and economic inequalities in physical performance during old age in distinct populations and for the independent and cumulative disadvantage of low socioeconomic status during adulthood and poverty and living alone in later life.